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Critics of a garbage plant near LaGuardia Airport urged a federal appeals court on Wednesday to force the city to defend itself against claims the facility will increase the hazard of collisions between airplanes and birds it attracts.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments by lawyers for the Federal Aviation Administration and a group called Friends of LaGuardia Airport Inc. but did not immediately rule.

The issue was taken to the appeals court after the FAA dismissed the city from an administrative complaint in which the group claimed construction of the waste transfer station will raise the risk of serious bird collisions with planes similar to what happened to US Airways Flight 1549, which was hit by a flock of geese following takeoff from LaGuardia in January 2009 and lost both engines but landed safely in the Hudson River.

"It is ultimately about the birds," the group's attorney, Randy Mastro, said outside court.


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